Welcome to Whit's World

Welcome to the randomness that is my life. You can usually find me wandering around somewhere in my head trying to figure it all out. I blog about the loves of my life, my two boys, our new homeschooling journey, and anything else that moves me. I find that writing is the best therapy. Thanks for stopping by, and Be Blessed!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Power of Prayer

I am a firm believer in the power of prayer! I pray, my children pray, we pray as a family, we pray about everything. We all believe that God listens and answers our prayers how he sees fit, not always the way we want, but answers nonetheless. I believe it works, and I also believe that when you pull a bunch of people together to pray and converse with the Lord, the power there is more abundant than comprehensible.

So I was talking to a dear friend on Twitter this week about her FIL who is suffering terribly from a horrendous disease, cancer. She shared with me that even during treatment, the cancer is spreading. Can we all take a moment and lift him and the entire family up? ...Okay, good? After this conversation, I decided that it is important to share the story that I know, maybe if you don't believe that prayer works, you will hereafter (it's a long one, but a good one dear readers).

My parents were not the praying kind growing up, I was constantly begging them to just take me to church. I loved sleeping at friends' homes on Saturdays because I would get to go to church on Sunday morning with their family. After years and years of begging with the same "NO" response every week, something touched their hearts and we found a church home. My prayers were finally answered! I was in the 7th grade and at the perfect age to get involved with the youth group. My parents got heavily involved not long after and before long our entire family was spending 3 days a week in the house of the Lord and in fellowship with like-minded people. It was such a blessing, and came right at the right time....

The following year my parents came home from the doctor after school one day. They had forlorn looks on their faces, books in hand and my Dad had a big bandage on the side of his neck. He had cancer, it was bad, there would be a lot of hard roads ahead. I don't remember much of the conversation. In the following weeks they ran millions of tests and came back saying it was in the 4th and last stage, it had spread from his spleen, and we were given a life expectancy through October, it was May.

I remember trying to be strong for him and praying a lot. I went to one of his first treatment sessions with him and passed out by the chair he was in. Woke up in the waiting room with our family and friends holding me. This time was more than just rough on our family and it was never the same again, but that's for a different post another day.

A couple months later, a friend from church called my Dad and asked if he could sponsor him on a Walk to Emmaus. He didn't explain a lot, but that it would be an incredibly spiritual weekend with other men that would be life changing. My Dad said yes, my mom was furious...it was the best decision he ever made.

On these spiritual retreats, you do not leave for the weekend and any and all distractions are taken away from you including watches and cell phones (trust me, once you get started, those are the last things you are thinking about!). My Dad however had to leave the retreat once a day and go in town to the doctor to check his blood cell levels because he was just so sick. So before the weekend was over, this group of big tough men, placed my Dad in the middle of a circle and surrounded him. They anointed him with oil, all laid hands on him and began praying and praying and praying. My Dad has always said that he felt the presence of God that day and he felt the cancer leave his body.

He went back home a changed man and continued his treatments, but his doctor wanted him to go see a specialist at MD Anderson in Houston. When he arrived and tests started happening it didn't take long for the doctor to come in confused and bewildered, but with good news. The cancer was barely there, almost completely gone? My Dad lifted his hands and gave all the glory to God in that moment...the doctor refused to accept that as the answer, but whatever! He was going to live and see me and my brother graduate and more!

He continued with his treatment for a while longer and was announced to be in remission by the time my Freshman year was over. Tell me the power of prayer doesn't work now, huh?!

Unfortunately, the cancer has come and gone several times more over the years and it is currently here. He is monitoring his condition every 3 months and as long as there continues to be no changes, there will be no treatment. He works full time and leads a normal life, you would never know that he is a man fighting a terrible disease with people continually praying for him everywhere. But he is here, he has a new wife, beautiful grandchildren and is here!

So I believe in the power of prayer, I believe in the blessings of God! I think this is a good time of year to remember these things. So let's pray for each other. What is on your heart? Who can we lift up right now?

I pray for each and every one of my dear readers this holiday season...may you all be blessed and see joy whatever you celebrate or believe. Remember the reason for the season.

Be Blessed,

Whit

Friday, December 16, 2011

Trying to Go Gluten Free

This mix is super yummy, but we can't all eat it as it has almonds in it
and J is allergic so I am open to suggestions here.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my family is always on a mission to improve our diet and nutrition because we know how essential of a part that plays on our overall health.  I have heard a lot about gluten/wheat free diets over the past several years, but honestly never paid too much attention to any details until now.  After receiving the diagnosis that I have endometriosis a little over a month ago now, I have done a lot of reading about ways to lessen the symptoms and severity with diet and supplements versus hormone therapy and/or surgery.  A lot of my reading has directed that endometriosis sufferers should eliminate gluten and sugar from their diets among a few other things...bummer...at least that's what I thought at first.

My husband, being the always supportive man that he is, offered to make the switch to gluten free products with me, to a certain extent.  We were shocked to see so many alternative options at the grocery store these days for those who eliminate gluten and wheat products, especially at stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts.  We have also been surprised to discover that a lot of the meals that we eat are already gluten free.  We eat a lot of basmati or jasmine white thai rice around here with meat and vegetables for dinner...gluten free.  On soft taco nights, I substitute white corn tortillas for flour, serve with homemade black beans and spanish rice...gluten free.  We even tried some gluten free pasta that was made out of quinoa, spinach, corn and bell peppers in my famous cajun chicken and shrimp pasta, and it was a huge hit!  Everyone actually made the comment that they liked the new recipe better.  Same thing with some chocolate chip cookies I made with a gluten free mix earlier this week.  My husband raved about how much better the cookies were, and I (and the boys evidently) tend to agree.  We honestly have not told J that anything is different, and he hasn't noticed so we will just leave it at that...he has always been an excellent eater.

Soak the black beans overnight, add veggies and seasonings
and simmer for 4-6 on the stove.
We left out the shrimp in this batch for time's sake as I get
fresh shrimp that you have to de-vein and peel.  You can cut up all your veggies
ahead of time to help in the preparation.

Now I can not sit here and tell you that I have made the switch to being completely gluten free...but I can tell you, that on the days I do eliminate it completely from my diet, I do feel a lot better!!  Any pain I am having is lessened, and ladies, I do not feel full and bloated all day long anymore either.  I have had a lot fewer days with stomach issues as well.  I am finding that it is well worth the time to read the labels and try new things all for the sake of my health.  I will be anxious to see long term effects once I become more disciplined in cooking and eating this way.  

Are you yourself gluten free or do you know someone that is?  What are your favorite gluten free products? What are your favorite gluten free recipes?  Thanks for sharing any tips!

Be Blessed,

Whit

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Homeschooling at It's Best


One of the best parts of homeschooling is having the ability to go to the Children's Museum in the middle of the day to check out the dinosaur exhibit. J put his new scientist skills to the test and walked through the scientific method several times while there!

Be blessed,

Whit

Monday, December 12, 2011

Noeo Biology 1: A Homeschool Science Curriculum (Part 1: Weather)


When we began this homeschool journey back in August, I did a lot of research about a wide variety of curriculum options...especially in Math and Science. I posted this, Choosing Homeschool Curriculum, and have honestly chosen different curriculums than I originally thought, with the exception of Spelling and Science. I fell in love with the Noeo Science homeschool curriculum the moment I found it. Dr. Randy Pritchard has created a science homeschool curriculum that is anything but boring and traditional, and I am confident it will carry us well into high school.  I am so happy and grateful to have the opportunity to try out Noeo Science Biology 1 this year with J!

Let me tell you a little more about how the curriculum is set up first though. When the package arrived, we could not believe how many books and resources were included in the Biology 1 Kit! Included is an Instructor's Guide with weekly lesson plans and reproducible pages for daily readings. The kit also comes with 10 books on all different subject areas and 6 complete experiment kits to use in correlation with the lessons.  Seriously, these experiment kits alone are awesome!!  You will not need another thing to conduct each experiment with ease right there in your home.  Their website is also a wonderful resource for a homeschool parent with extra activity ideas and printable reproducible pages that I am using for more than just Science now. The weekly lessons can be done in any way that works best for you. We have 4 days of lessons and then do experiments on Fridays.  Usually not more than 30 minutes a day is spent on Science and J walks away with a wealth of knowledge each time.  Some days we get so carried away reading and learning that we spend a lot longer...the joys of homeschool!  We also discovered along the way that Noeo is Greek for "understood", how absolutely appropriate that is!  As a first year homeschooling parent, I could not have asked for a better Science curriculum.

        

I can honestly say that J's favorite part of our homeschool day is Science time (he is a boy after my own heart, what can I say)!  He was extremely thrilled when we began the Noeo Science journey, that it began with studying weather.  I never have to worry about fighting for his undivided attention when we open up the "DK Eye Wonder Weather" book and settle in on the floor with his clipboard and drawing/writing sheet. This book is really colorful and interesting in how all of the information is provided to the young reader. Each page discusses a specific weather topic with lots of pictures, definitions and interesting facts. We use the printable reproducible pages with our reading every day. J will draw his own pictures about the daily reading as well as write any definitions and fun facts he learned. The experiment kit that accompanies the weather part of the Biology 1 curriculum introduces all the different weather instruments used by actual meteorologists and allows the young scientist to set up their own weather station and record their findings several times daily. After we made it through all 4 weeks with the weather book, we did 2 weeks of weather recording, forecasting and review. At the end of the 6 weeks, J created his very own, quite accurate, weather forecast. He now explains and understands how and why weather occurs, the variety of weather occurrences, and the instruments used to forecast the weather. He can also look in the sky and easily determine what type of clouds are blanketing it, and what area of our atmosphere they appear to be in. I would say that is pretty incredible for an 8 year old boy!

        


The weather portion of Noeo Science Biology 1 was a huge success! J and I both learned a lot together and, more importantly, he retained all of the knowledge that he gained. We spent about 6 weeks total discussing weather so that I could be assured that J truly understood what we were learning. I do not like to rush learning in our home.  You may be able to get through the 4 weeks much faster or slower than us, but to me that is just one of the many wonderful things about this curriculum...you can completely tailor it to suit your children's needs.  This week we will begin reading and studying all about Louis Pasteur and microbes, and I have decided to briefly introduce the scientific method in correlation.


If you are looking for a new Science curriculum to use in your homeschool, I would highly recommend the Noeo Science collection.  They also have Physics 1 and Chemistry 1 kits for the younger learners, and once you complete Biology, it begins again for older students...I honestly believe that I will stick with Noeo all the way through our homeschooling journey.  I really appreciate how they have so many different resources to use and not one of them is a boring textbook or workbook.  I will continue to document our Noeo Science journey throughout the year so be sure you are following along. You can purchase the entire kit with all the guides, books and experiment kits or everything individually through their website at a very reasonable price.  Go over and check them out:  http://www.noeoscience.com/  Happy learning and...

Be Blessed,

Whit

Disclaimer:  I was given a review copy of the Noeo Science Biology 1 Kit in return for my honest opinions and review.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

First Friends Custom Portraits

My husband and I celebrated our anniversary on the 1st of this month, and oh my how surprised he was with the gift he received!  We like to keep the gifts we exchange original and different every time so that it is a complete surprise.  My husband and I both put a lot of thought into gift giving...but this year I knew exactly what I wanted to do for him.  I met the talented Miss Erin Chainani of First Friends on Twitter almost a year ago (@ToyPainter) and was instantly blown away by the work she does.  She paints the most beautiful toy portraits!  People commission her to paint their, or someone dear to them's, favorite childhood toy, stuffed animal, etc.  I also saw one day that she can do other custom portraits upon request...hmmm, that got my brain thinking.

My husband's favorite picture in the house is a portrait of me that we had drawn while at a piano bar downtown long long ago.  We framed it in a really neat serving tray with a glass top, which I found at TJ Maxx for nothing, and it hangs next to his side of the bed.  I wanted a portrait done of L for him by Erin Chainani of First Friends and she was of course happy and willing to do so.

I sent her this picture:


It was taken by my husband at Toys 'R Us on their first daddy and me outing alone.  I knew how special that day was to my husband and when he showed me this picture, I knew this was the perfect portrait for Erin.  This is what she did:


UNBELIEVABLE RIGHT?!?!  She nailed him in this portrait!  It looks just like the picture, all the details and colors are spot on, I could not have been any happier with the finished product.  When my husband opened his gift, tears welled up immediately.  It meant a lot to him to have that day forever memorialized in a portrait of his sweet little boy.

Erin had the portrait completed and at my door step within a week too, talk about a quick turn around time.  She also emailed me to make sure everything would be done just the way I wanted it a couple of times which I really appreciated.  This is the perfect gift for anyone in your life really!  We plan to have it professionally framed in the very near future, but for now it sits next to mine.  I can't wait to have her do some pictures for the boys in the future.


Be Blessed,

Whit

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mamavation Monday: 2 Week Challenge and Sticking to a Holiday Budget

First of all, I am so excited that I made myself to commit to doing the 2 week challenge...I am making the promise to you all that I will see it through!!  I will be doing the beginners workout for now because I am not trying to kill myself, but I definitely hope to see results at the end of the 2 weeks.  So here are my beginning measurements:
Weight:  132 lbs.
Waist:  34.5 in.
Hips:  36.5 in.
Thighs:  20 in.

Now, for sticking to a holiday budget...that is a hard thing to do when it is so easy to get carried away this time of year.  Thank you to Reflect It Apparel who has generously sponsored our weekly Mamavation Monday prompt.  Luckily, I had a pretty good toy stock pile saved up in the garage due to winning at twitter parties and through other blog giveaways (our family is always so thankful for these wins...it is usually things we would never purchase for ourselves...so thankful!) so that gave us a great jump start this year.  Me and the hubby sat down after Thanksgiving to look at all the income and expenses for December, and then we make a budget for each boy.  I wait until I see a great coupon code or sale to buy things and make the money in the budget stretch as far as it will.  This year, any and all shopping has been done online too.  I have discovered that this is really a more economical way of shopping in the end.  We do not have to waste gas money and load up the whole crew and have daddy distract in a different part of the store as I shop.  We can put the kids down to bed, and shop for Christmas together!!  What a revelation to us both!!  Plus, especially at this time of the year, we have not paid shipping for a thing so far.  I also feel much less rushed while shopping this way, so I can make sure we are getting the best deal possible.  This is definitely helping us to stay way below what we budgeted thus far.  I know DH would be thrilled to come in under budget, and right now that looks completely probable!

At the end of the day, our children understand that the presents are not what the holiday is truly about however.  My oldest son asked for 2 very simple things this year:  a shark book and a new football.  It's not about spending hundreds of dollars to get the most gifts under the tree, it's about celebrating Jesus Christ!  Now, let's rock this 2 Week Challenge and the rest of our shopping lists ladies!!  Have a wonderful week and...

Be Blessed,

Whit


Disclosure:  This post is sponsored by Reflect It Apparel and I’m writing this to be entered into a giveaway hosted by Mamavation – a community dedicated to obesity prevention & weight loss for women.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Imagine Toys: Little Labs Weather Experiment Kit Giveaway *Winner Announcement*

A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to visit my blog and enter to win the Little Labs Weather Experiment Kit thanks to the incredibly awesome people at Imagine Toys!!

The winner was chosen via the Random.org Generator widget on the right side of my blog...and without further ado, the winner is:


#15 Meg for following Imagine Toys on Twitter!!  Congrats to Meg!  She will have 48 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be picked.

If you did not win, you can still pick up the Little Labs Weather Experiment Kit here!  It really does make the perfect fun activity for you to do with your kids or the perfect homeschool lesson.

Be Blessed,

Whit